Men's Basketball: Camara keys UNH's big victoryBy MICHAEL ABELSON
Special to the Union Leader
January 21. 2018 8:47PM
DURHAM — It was as ugly as it was tough but the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team did what was needed to squeeze by Stony Brook 53-51 at Lundholm Gym.
The Wildcats scored the final five points of the game, over the final 2:36, to come from behind and take the victory.
“Obviously a very hard-fought conference game, which we expected,” New Hampshire coach Bill Herrion said. “Our defense was terrific. We held them to about 34 percent from the floor. I wish we could play better offensively but you’ve got to credit them. They made things difficult for us.”
Records show why Sunday’s game was important to both teams: UNH improved to 4-2 in America East (8-12 overall), while Stony Brook dropped to 3-3 (8-12 overall). The Wildcats now play two straight on the road, at Maine on Wednesday and Binghamton on Saturday.
Senior forward Iba Camara shined brightest down the stretch. Camara had all five of UNH’s points in the final 2:36 as well as a rebound and a steal. He finished with a team-high 12 points and seven rebounds. Three of those points came on free throws, on which Camara has improved dramatically since last year.
“This summer, I really focused on free throws and keep working at it,” Camara said. “I know it’ll help me a lot especially in games like this. I really focused on it and worked really hard.”
New Hampshire’s defense sealed the deal as Stony Brook’s Jaron Cornish drove the lane in the final seconds but couldn’t get the ball to the rim. In the ensuing scramble the ball was poked away from the hoop and time expired. Stony Brook missed its final four shots of the game, two free throws and two field goals.
“I think it’s what we emphasize and stress in practice,” Herrion said. “We’re a defensive-oriented basketball team. I thought we had a couple of really big stops when we needed them in the last two minutes of the game.”
It was a grind from start to finish. Both teams banged on the inside and made life difficult for the offense. The lead changed hands six times throughout and neither team led by more than eight points.
UNH outrebounded Stony Brook 41-37.
Cornish led all scorers with 16 points but had only three in the second half as center Jakub Petras took over for the Seawolves inside, finishing with 13 points and eight rebounds.
However, the Achilles heel for the Seawolves was free throws. Stony Brook shot 41.7 percent from the free throw line (10-24) despite coming into the game shooting 66 percent as a team.
“I think when you get this close to win a road game, you’ve got to capitalize,” Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals said. “To shoot 28 percent from the field and 31 percent from the free throw line (in the second half) and be in a position to win at the end is disappointing. When you have a situation to extend the lead, we couldn’t capitalize.”
UNH senior forward Tanner Leissner had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. It was Leissner’s lowest scoring output this season and came on a tough 5-for-13 shooting day.
Despite the rough go, it was New Hampshire’s fourth win in five games and third by single digits.
“I think we’ve grown up as a team since our non-conference schedule,” Leissner said. “I think the tough games helped the younger guys grow up. The minutes they’ve been playing prepared them for this moment. The games that weren’t going our way now are. It feels a lot better.”
History was made in the second half when Camara pulled down his fourth rebound of the contest to give him the school’s all-time rebounding record, which had been held by Dave Pemberton since 1972. Pemberton’s record was 897. Camara finished the game with 901 career boards.
“It means a lot,” Camara said. “I’m just so blessed. I don’t even know what to say. Without my teammates I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this. I’m thankful and it doesn’t stop here. There’s a lot more to do. We’ve got to keep winning.”